Magnificent Bodyguards (1978)

MagnificentBodyguards+1978-25-bMagnificent Bodyguards [飛渡捲雲山] (1978)
AKA The Red Dragon, Master of Death

Starring Jackie Chan, James Tin Jun, Bruce Leung, Wang Ping, Lau Ming, Wong Gwan, Wong Kwan, Wong Chi-Ping, Lee Man-Tai, Chui Yuen, Luk Chuen, Fang Fang, Ko Keung, Wong Ching

Directed by Lo Wei

Expectations: Low.

twohalfstar


Magnificent Bodyguards was the first Hong Kong film to be shot in 3D, and it never lets you forget that. It only takes 30 seconds for the first thing to be thrust directly at the camera, and this moment is but a drop of water in the tsunami of “things thrust directly at the camera” shots to follow. This might sound like a bad thing, and if you’re one to scoff at gimmicky 3D filmmaking then it definitely is, but I really enjoyed this aspect of the film. Kudos must be given to Jackie Chan for seamlessly working so many of these moves into his fight choreography for the film. I’m sure that was no small feat, and it really helps to spice up these fights.

“But,” you say, “a Jackie fight shouldn’t need spicing up with visual trickery!” And I would agree, but in Magnificent Bodyguards the fights, while good, are incredibly forgettable and without much passion. The actions are all performed well, and a lot of the choreography is well-done, but none of it feels especially exciting or interesting. I imagine this is the feeling non-martial arts fans have about every kung fu film. So while lots of individual moments within the choreography are good, the overall fights are largely uninteresting and pretty mediocre, except for those things coming at the camera, of course.

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New Fist of Fury (1976)

NewFistOfFury_GoldenSwallow_SC36New Fist of Fury [新精武門] (1976)
AKA Fists to Fight

Starring Jackie Chan, Nora Miao, Chan Sing, Henry Luk Yat-Lung, Yi Ming, Suen Lam, Lau Ming, Cheng Siu-Siu, Hon Siu, Han Ying Chieh, Chiang Kam, Liu Ping

Directed by Lo Wei

Expectations: Moderate.

twohalfstar


New Fist of Fury opens with Lo Wei helping Nora Miao and the remnants of the Ching Wu school to flee Japanese-occupied Shanghai, by way of a boat to the also Japanese-occupied Taiwan. That might seem like it’s not the best place to find refuge, but Nora Miao specifically wants to go there to show the Japanese what for. There they meet a delinquent thief (Jackie Chan) who mistakenly steals Bruce’s nunchaku, thus getting himself wrapped up in the middle of a Chinese vs. Japanese martial arts struggle.

During my super passionate Jackie Chan years, I always did my best to avoid his early films. I got burned a couple of times and there’s nothing worse for a budding, teenage JC fan than wanting to kick back and watch Jackie kick ass only to kick back and watch Jackie in a two-minute cameo. So I mostly stuck to what I knew was great and left it at that. I do remember seeing New Fist of Fury before, but that’s about all I remember about it. Clearly it didn’t scratch that undying Jackie itch back then. But now I am a different person, and I realize much better what to expect out of different directors and martial arts periods, so I’m able to appreciate these early films for what they are instead of what they aren’t. New Fist of Fury is never going to be Armour of God, so there’s no reason to be disappointed when it’s not.

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